The second round of talks between the United States and Russia on Ukraine and security begins on Friday.
Anthony Blinken and Sergei Lavrov, the top diplomats from Washington and Moscow respectively, will meet in Geneva, Switzerland.
These new talks, which seek to de-escalate the crisis on the border with Ukraine, come 11 days after the first round of discussions in the Swiss city yielded few results.
Russia has amassed some 100,000 troops on the border and is accused by the United States of planning an invasion, which it denies.
Instead, he accuses the West of planning “provocations” in Ukraine, citing the delivery of weapons to the country by British military transports in recent days.
Russia wants binding security guarantees, including a permanent ban on Ukraine’s NATO membership, to which Kiev aspires, and the removal of most of the US and allied military presence in Eastern Europe.
Washington, Brussels and NATO rejected these demands and warned that any attack on Ukraine would have costly consequences.
Blinken’s dizzying European tour
The top US diplomat warned on Thursday during a visit to Berlin for talks with his German counterpart, Annalena Baerbock, that “we are facing complex problems and solving them will take time. I don’t expect us to solve them in Geneva.”
He called for “mutual understanding.”
Meanwhile, the Kremlin denounced as “destabilizing” US President Joe Biden’s comments on Wednesday promising a harsh response from the US and its allies in the event of a Russian military incursion into Ukraine. Moscow argued that Biden’s comments could give “hotheads among Ukrainian officials” ideas.
Antony Blinken arrives in Geneva after a whirlwind tour that took him from Kiev to Berlin, the city that symbolized Europe’s reunification after the Cold War, for talks with German, French and British allies.
“Allowing Russia to violate those principles with impunity would drag us all back to a much more dangerous and unstable time, when this continent – and this city – was split in two, separated by no man’s land, patrolled by soldiers, with the threat of war hanging over everyone’s head,” he said from Berlin.
“It would also send a message to others around the world that these principles are expendable and that too would have catastrophic results,” he added.
Russian military maneuvers
In initial talks last week in Switzerland, US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman proposed building on the defunct Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) disarmament treaty signed during the Cold War with Moscow.
In 2019, former US President Donald Trump withdrew from the treaty, accusing Russia of violations.
Biden said on Wednesday that he was ready for a new summit with Vladimir Putin, after the one on June 16, 2021, also in Geneva.
Russia did not say no to the proposals on missiles and maneuvers but reiterated that this was not the main issue. For good measure, he announced Thursday large-scale naval exercises in January and February in the Atlantic, Arctic, Pacific and Mediterranean.
The head of US diplomacy on Wednesday urged Putin to opt for the “peaceful path” and also made it clear that he will not propose written answers to the detailed claims made a few weeks ago by the Russians on the points of contention.
Both Blinken and Lavrov will address reporters after their two-hour talks.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism